By now you have surely heard the infamous quote “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.”
Sometimes you get all the good, yummy, sweet, filled chocolates, and other times you get the the sour, bitter, yucky tasting ones. When you pick up a box, you take the whole box, the good and the bad that each box brings.
That is the way it is with life, you see life isn’t just a box of yummy goodness, life is comprised of the good, the bad, and the parts that make you want to puke.
What if I told you that it is you who makes your life more challenging? Life was never intended to always be easy, but…you do, in fact, make life more challenging because of your negative thinking.
The thing about negative thoughts is that their influence is far-reaching. Meaning there is not one part of your life that escapes from the negative thought and feelings. Affecting you emotionally, mentally, and physically. These negative thoughts can severely limit your ability to achieve your dreams and interrupt the true joy life can bring.
Having consistent negative thoughts about things around you has a name – Pessimism
There is a good chance you know a pessimist. Maybe it’s you.
Did you know there are reasons why pessimists are so miserable? Yup! I’ll give you two of them.
There are two primary effects that negative thinking has on your life:
- It has a negative impact on your mood and outlook on life. Thinking negatively feels bad and can ultimately make you feel sad, afraid, angry, hopeless, and just overall negative in general. These emotions taint the way you view the world and have a deleterious effect (harmful) on your ability to make informed decisions.
- Negative thinking inhibits your ability to achieve goals. For any objective, you have things pulling you toward your goal and other things pushing you away. When you think negative thoughts about achieving a goal, you’re much less able to accomplish it.
Imagine you’d like to take a trip to your favorite foreign destination. This has always been a goal of yours. But then you start thinking about it:
- “It’s so far away, the jet lag will be awful. I’ll probably spend half of the trip just recovering.”
- “The language is so different from English. How will I manage?”
- “I should spend the money on something else.”
- “I’ll lose a lot of money exchanging currency.”
- “I’ve heard (insert foreign country here) prisons are the worst in the world. What if I break some weird law I don’t even know about?”
Suddenly, that dream trip doesn’t sound so dreamy anymore. The negative thinking makes this goal, and all others seem harder than they are.
These two negative effects are pervasive. They majorly influence your entire life. But there are additional consequences as well.
So, what causes this negative thinking?
Negativity is often a byproduct of insecurity or depression and can stem from illness, life events, personality problems, or substance abuse.
A person who has a habit of being a cynical thinker, is frequently critical, and is in a constant state of denial can create new neural pathways in their brain that encourage sadness and cause their brain to distort the truth, making it even more difficult to break free from the cycle of negative thought patterns.
How does negativity show up?
Negativity can manifest itself in numerous ways, below are my top seven:
- Assuming: Jumping to conclusions that something bad will happen in the future because of past or present circumstances.
- Blaming: Blaming others and feeling that you are a victim to life’s uncontrollable events.
- Catastrophizing: The belief that a catastrophic disaster is inevitable in everything you do and everywhere you go.
- Change Misconception: The thinking that if people or circumstances would just change, you would then be able to be happy.
- Cynicism: Distrusting people and their motives.
- Filtering: Focusing on only the bad in what would otherwise have been a joyous experience or memory.
- Polarized Thinking: The belief that if something or someone is not perfect, then they must be horrible. Including yourself.
Negative thinking also has other consequences that limit your capabilities of your mind, body, and spirit
Most negative thoughts and emotions are due to a healthy, natural response to disaster and heartache. Your body is designed to deal with these stressful situations by releasing cortisol (the primary stress hormone) into your bloodstream to regulate your stress response during “fight-or-flight’ activation. It is when they move in and become intrusive that they become unhealthy.
Four consequences to negative thinking are:
- It’s damaging to your health. The stress caused by negative thinking is horrible for your health and may cause a variety of illnesses such as:
- Chest pain
- Sleep problems
- Upset stomach
- It lowers your self-esteem. When you think you’re too ugly, too fat, too skinny, too tall, too short, too dumb, you end up feeling horrible about yourself.
- It reduces your confidence. Negative thoughts about yourself lower your self-confidence. Negative thoughts about others make you less confident in their abilities. Your negative thinking can impact everyone around you.
- It saps your energy. Everyone has an inner critic that thrives on negative commentary. It knows how to feed your fears and insecurities, and that, can drain you just as much as a real-life “sapper”.
How to Limit Your Negative Thinking Patterns
Luckily, there are ways to limit your negative thoughts and bring in positivity each day:
- Check yourself throughout the day for negative thoughts. Close your eyes, if you’re able to and give yourself permission to check in on any negative thoughts or feelings that come up during your regular daily activities and take mental note of where you physically feel these thoughts throughout your body.
- When you notice a negative thought, change it (reframe) to one that’s more positive. For example, you can change the thought, “I hate driving to work” to “Driving sure beats taking the bus. I can listen to my music as loudly as I like.”
- Get into the habit of thinking positive thoughts. Before doing any task, take 15 seconds and think a few positive thoughts about it. The task will be easier and more enjoyable.
- Spend more time with positive people. It’s unlikely that you’ll rise far above the people you spend the most time with. Ensure that the people around you are positive.
Reducing the incidences of negative thinking is one of the most effective ways to spend your time and enhance your life. Negative thoughts and stress can harm your happiness, success, and health. Spend time to ensure that your thoughts are supportive and positive and turn your life around.
The good news is that all stress isn’t bad stress. Good stress (Eustress) helps you meet your daily challenges head on and motivates you to reach your goals, ultimately making you a smarter, happier, and healthier person.
That’s right. Good stress is vital for a healthy life.
Yes, You Can Overcome Negativity
Research suggests that happiness and optimism are more of a choice rather than influenced by circumstances.
Here are my top three tips to overcome negativity:
1) Live in the moment. Set your intention and focus solely on the present moment, the current task at hand and avoid thinking of past mistakes or future fears. If a negative thought enters your head, acknowledge it, and then respond with at least three positive affirmations immediately.
2) Be positive. Participate in activities that create happy thoughts–like meditation, spending time with loved ones, and new or old hobbies. Engage in uplifting media and conversations.
3) Spend time with uplifting people. Develop a healthy network of family and friends who will help you view the glass as half-full because Negativity is contagious, but so is Positivity. So don’t catch the pessimist bug from someone else! Rather, choose to spend time talking and being with those who leave your feeling enlightened and fulfilled.